When the first real rain fell about two weeks ago it brought such relief to the dry dusty ground of Kapama. Within a few days the new green shoots of grass were starting to appear. My guests who were in-house for four nights also commented on the change in the grass colour and foliage from the day they arrived compared with the day they left. The animals were really starting to graze like they had not seen food for months. To me this change is most noticeable in the impala. Where ever I look, I see impala grazing furiously. These antelope are total mixed feeders. Depending on the time of the year, the amount and type of food available to them and the impala’s geographical location; they will adapt their feeding strategy to include either more graze or browse.
Impala are common antelope and for the most part form the base diet of most predators, especially during this time of year. It is the season where the impala are giving birth. This process renders the females in particular more vulnerable to predators, and endangers the whole herd in general. Impala have an average recruitment rate of approximately 33% per year; hence forming the base diet for most predators. The lambs being taken mostly by Black Backed Jackal, Baboon, Leopard, Cheetah and Lion.
The first impala lambs have been born and within the next few weeks the whole reserve should be booming with impala lambs. Nature is both beautiful and cruel at these times. A few days ago while on an evening drive, I found Mother Nature had dealt a cruel hand. I noticed a small new face staring out at us from under a Tamboti tree. On closer inspection, I saw a new born impala lying curled up alongside its motionless mother. What had happened? The female had obviously died shortly after giving birth from excessive blood loss. She hadn’t even had the chance to clean her young one. Sadness filled me inside; I felt the urge to interfere. I wanted to go and fetch the baby and take it back to the camp and try my best to give the baby a chance at survival. The one thing that stopped me was the realisation that this was Mother Nature’s way of ensuring the survival of only the strongest genetic material. As sad as it was, I knew deep inside me that this would have been a purely selfish act, involving myself where I shouldn’t be. Fetching the lamb would have taken the food from the predators and thereby upsetting the natural balance. I explained this to my guests and they were in agreement with me. With mixed emotions we continued toward the camp for a hearty dinner.
What became of the young impala I can only imagine. The next morning when we drove past the same area, there was no sign of the young impala or its mother. I humbled myself in the thought that nature’s cycle was not interrupted, and that the cycle is the important part of nature. The words of my Trainer from ten years ago echoed in my mind… “Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints”.
Paul Daniel – Kapama Karula, Senior Ranger